The 2.7-meter-diameter Huygensprobe undergoingtests in Germany.
radio waves sent from the spacecraft. The
will take pictures in visible, near-ultraviolet,and near-infrared light. The
will map Titan’ssurface using radar and passive microwave imagery topierce the veil of haze, and will measure heights of surfacefeatures. The
Ion and Neutral Mass Spectrometer
will ex-amine neutral and charged particles near Titan, Saturn’srings, and the icy satellites to learn more about the ex-tended atmospheres and ionospheres of these bodies.The
Visible and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer
will iden-tify the chemical composition of the surfaces, the atmo-spheres, and rings of Saturn and its moons by measuringthe colors of the visible light and the infrared energy theyreflect. The
Composite Infrared Spectrometer
will measureinfrared energy from the surfaces, atmospheres, and ringsof Saturn and its moons to study their temperatures andcompositions. The
Cosmic Dust Analyzer
will study ice anddust grains in and near the Saturn system.
Radio and Plas-ma Wave Science
will investigate plasma waves generatedby ionized gases flowing out from the Sun or around Sat-urn, natural emissions of radio energy, and dust.The
Cassini Plasma Spectrometer
will explore plasma —electrically charged (ionized) gas — within and near Sat-urn’s magnetic field. The
Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrograph
will measure ultraviolet energy from atmospheres, satellitesurfaces, and rings to study structure, chemistry, and com-position. The
Magnetospheric Imaging Instrument
willimage Saturn’s magnetic environment and measure inter-actions between the magnetosphere and the solar wind,a flow of ionized gases from the Sun. The
will study Saturn’s magnetic field and itsinteractions with the solar wind, the rings, and the moonsof Saturn.
THE HUYGENS TITAN PROBE
The probe is provided by ESA. Except for semiannualhealth checks, the probe will remain dormant throughoutthe 6.7-year interplanetary cruise. Prior to the probe’sseparation from the orbiter, a final health check will beperformed, and the orbiter will position the probe on atrajectory to intercept Titan. Cassini will set Huygens’ on-board clock to the precise time necessary to “ wake up”the probe systems 15 minutes prior to encounteringTitan’s atmosphere. For 21 days, Huygens will simplycoast to Titan with no systems active except for its wake-up clock.Huygens’ main mission phase will occur during its para-chute descent through Titan’s atmosphere. The batteriesand all other resources are sized for a Huygens missionduration of three hours, which includes the possibility of upto half an hour or more on Titan’s surface. The probe’s ra-dio link will be activated early in the descent phase and thedata will be relayed to the orbiter for onboard storage andsubsequent transmission to Earth. At the end of this three-hour-long communication window, the Cassini orbiter willfly out of radio contact with Huygens — and shortly there-after its high-gain antenna will be turned away from Titanand toward Earth.
HUYGENS PROBE DESIGN FEATURES
The probe is ESA’s first planetary atmospheric entry mis-sion, and some of the technologies required are very dif-ferent from those needed for more traditional missions.Special systems such as the thermal-protection system andhigh-speed parachutes have been developed specifically forentry into Titan’s atmosphere.The thermal protection system (TPS) is designed to protectthe probe from the extreme heat generated by its rush intoTitan’s atmosphere at about 6 kilometers per second(13,400 miles per hour). At such a high speed, surfacetemperatures as hot as 1,700 degrees Celsius (3,000 de-grees Fahrenheit) could be reached in less than a minute.The front of the heat shield is covered by tiles similar tothose used to protect the space shuttle, made from a mate-rial known as AQ60 — a low-density “ mat” of silica fibers.The tile thickness on the front shield is calculated to ensurethat the structure will not exceed 150 degrees Celsius(302 degrees Fahrenheit), which is below the melting tem-perature of lead. The rear side of the probe will reach muchlower temperatures during atmospheric entry; thus, aspray-on layer of “ Prosial” (a silicon-based foam) was used.The total mass of the thermal-protection system is morethan 100 kilograms (220 pounds) — almost one-third ofthe entire probe mass.